Who is the number one at Red Bull Racing? Team boss Christian Horner denies the existence of an explosive clause in Max Verstappen’s contract when quizzed by a Red Bull podcast panel ahead of the Azerbaijan Formula 1 Grand Prix in Baku.
There is no clause in the contract of Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen guaranteeing him the No. 1 seat in the Red Bull garage is Red Bull’s official position made clear on the ‘Talking Bull’ podcast, which has been recently confirmed by Sergio Perez’s father, Anthonio, in the Mexican press last week.
This of course is, for want of a better word, ‘bull’.
Max is clearly number 1, despite contracts
Few teams in Formula One have as clear a division of roles as Red Bull. Max Verstappen, who is expected to win his third Drivers’ Championship this year, is the undisputed darling of the team. Sergio Perez is number two in the hierarchy, leading to claims that the Mexican is merely Verstappen’s wingman. Although it is unlikely this has been written officially in any contract, making Horners claims technically correct, the reality is that Perez will never be considered equally by the Milton Keynes based squad.
Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez of all people would know this deep down, and certainly the Mexican has indirectly accused Red Bull of not being treated equally to the two-time World Champion on more than one occasion since being team mates.
Perez in a fair fight?
Checo’s father, Antonio Perez, has spoken out against the common belief that his son is merely Verstappen’s wingman in the battle against Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
“That’s a lie, let’s be clear about that!” the 63-year-old rumbled to the Mexican edition of Marca.
“It’s a professional team that wants to win with its two drivers. […] There is no favouritism for anyone, it’s all speculation!” clarified Perez senior.
Perez wants better from his team
The Mexican certainly feels something is afoot within Red Bull as yet again he blamed something on the car for his repeated offs during practice and again in qualifying for the last Grand Prix in Australia saying: “It was really bad, very bad weekend,” and that “it’s totally unacceptable…”
Team boss Christian Horner dismissed his driver’s claims that the car was the cause of his problems in qualifying: “I think we had a bit of the engine running on in [practice] 3, but the levels that we saw in qualifying were nothing abnormal.”
It is clear that after the Melbourne race, Sergio’s critics came thick and fast, and in Azerbaijan he’ll need to make up for lost time if he’s to rekindle his battle with his teammate.
Perez knows the failure in Australia cost the team the perfect start to the season with 1-2 finishings, but the Red Bull driver believes it was just a hiccup.
“It feels like ages since we have been racing! It has been nice to have a break, to work hard in the gym and with my team at the factory,” Perez revealed.
Clearly the Mexican is resetting himself and hoping that things go smoothly in Baku with the full support of the Red Bull team who won’t treat him like a number 2 driver.
Horner: Perez is NOT a number 2 driver
Team boss Christian Horner denied any such clause in the Talking Bull podcast. Instead, the internal battle between Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who currently sits second in the Drivers’ Championship behind the Dutchman, will be “ruthlessly fair”, Horner explained.
“We want it to be about what they do on the track. There has never been a number one status in a contract with us, ever. It’s always been about what the drivers deliver on the track and we want to keep it that way,” the British man explained.
Although the current situation in the World Championship race fundamentally involves the risk of internal team conflicts, according to Horner, it finds great favour with Red Bull.
“It’s exactly what you want as a team or as a team boss, to have both at the top. You just have to make sure that both have the same opportunities,” explained the 49-year-old, who has been steering the fortunes of the currently dominant Formula One racing team since 2005.
Ricciardo’s ‘energy’ helps the pairing
According to Horner, the signing of Daniel Ricciardo as a replacement driver has had a positive impact on the difficult relationship between Verstappen and Perez in the past.
“I think they both feel more comfortable having his energy around them,” the Red Bull team boss explained on the podcast.
“It’s less awkward between the two of them, especially when they’re racing against each other, and they both really like him because he’s just a great guy – you can’t dislike Daniel Ricciardo.”
He said the Australian does “a lot of marketing gigs” and works a lot in the simulator. “He won’t be doing any practice sessions, but he will be doing tyre tests for us. To have a driver of Daniel’s quality is phenomenal for us.”
High praise for the driver who definitely has the number 3 written into his contract.
Verstappen 💥 Ricciardo
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 25, 2023